Aspyr Media PS5 Review Tomb Raider I - III Remastered Tomb Raider I - III Remastered Starring Lara Croft Tomb Raider I-III Remastered PS5 Review

Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft Review (PS5) – A Fantastic Collection Of PSOne Classics With Meaningful QoL Improvements

Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft PS5 Review – It’s easy to forget nowadays just how big of an impact Lara Croft had on video game culture. This was the 90s remember, where anthropomorphic hedgehogs and portly plumbers dominated the scene and female characters had yet to really make an impact. Enter our nimble trinket-pincher, who helped really bring the medium mainstream attention; she became a pin-up for teenage boys, appeared in non-gaming magazines, and even had a starring role in a lucozade advert.

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Okay, so she wasn’t the most nuanced of characters, but her titles sold millions and cemented Miss Croft as one of the first authentic video game heroines. If you were a teenager in the late 90s, you probably had two things on your mind every Christmas: a new Tomb Raider game, and the festive EastEnders episode (that last one is probably just me!). Bottom line: from 1996 – 2000, the franchise was absolutely huge and synonymous with the PlayStation brand.

Like many of you probably reading this review, I have very found memories of the original Tomb Raider games on PSOne (I even had the first game on Saturn). Every Christmas, I’d get the latest entry in Core Design’s globe-trolling adventure juggernaut, owned every official strategy guide, got all the secrets, and kept coming back for more.

Frankly, I’m surprised it’s taken this long to remaster the original games, but here we are (although the absence of Tomb Raider The Last Revelation is a little disappointing).

Tomb Raider I-III Remastered PS5 Review


Key Improvements Make These Old-School Adventures Shine

Tomb Raider, Tomb Raider II, and Tomb Raider III are all presented here complete with their respective expansions, namely Unfinished Business, the Golden Mask, and the Lost Artifact. This is particularly big for PlayStation gamers, as the expansions were only previously available on PC.

However, Aspyr Media has also implemented a smorgasbord of improvements and additional features to enhance these classic adventures for both newcomers and veteran fans alike. The biggest is the ability to switch between the old-school PSOne visuals and a modern glow-up at the press of the Options button.

Don’t expect the PS5 to be seriously flexing its visual muscle here; this is a remaster, not a remake, but there’s still a significant improvement all the same. Lighting effects and improved sky boxes really add a new layer of immersion to the dusty tombs, sunken ships, and jungles you’ll explore, with Lara’s model more or less on par with her Tomb Raider Anniversary incarnation.

Other touches such as increased foliage and texture help to gloss over the dated texture work, while enemies look less like blocky sausages with teeth and red eyes and more like an actual threat. Then again, if you’re like me, you’ll still appreciate the old-school aesthetic.

Elsewhere, you can shift between Modern and Tank Controls. Being an old git, I stuck with the old-school controls as this is what I’ve been used to the past 28 years; it’s the way Tomb Raider should be played.

However, the Modern Controls are perfect for newcomers. Here, Lara is able to simply move around with the analogue stick like you would a modern third-person game, while aiming is done by holding L2 and pressing R2 to shoot.

I’ll admit I have my issues with this method, chiefly because it feels almost incongruous with the vintage Tomb Raider DNA. Giving Lara more freedom of movement from a modern game and placing it in the confines of something that is designed for tank control takes away much of the pacing and challenge; I tried them out and found it all too easy to avoid foes and it almost felt unnatural at times.

However, it’d be disingenuous to say that people won’t have any problems with these ancient inputs, which is where Modern controls really shine.

To that effect, this option is a great way to enjoy some classic Tomb Raider; it’s simply a personal preference at the end of the day, and the most important thing is that you have a choice.

Other smaller quality-of-life changes are welcome, including adding a health bar for boss battles to track how much damage you’ve inflicted, or putting a ‘!’ icon above a key item to help you spot them better.

The save system has been revamped too, allowing you to now save at any time using the passport in your inventory. While Tomb Raider II used this already, Tomb Raider I & III had you save at crystals dotted in each stage, although TR III allowed you to store them to use anywhere. They’ve now been repurposed as in-game collectibles.

Meanwhile, those of you who fancy collecting Trophies will have their work cut out for them, as there’s over 200 Trophies to bag, some of which require you to really dive deep. Having a Photo Mode is also welcome, as there’s some lovely vistas to behold; or maybe you just want to capture Lara standing triumphantly over the body of a T-Rex.

Lara’s Classic PSOne Adventures Hold Up Remarkably Well Despite Their Age

Fortunately, the classic Tomb Raider games are just fundamentally enjoyable as they were decades ago. In fact, revisiting them now, you can really appreciate just how brilliant the level design is, and the sense of wonder and discovery imbued throughout each location is something that the modern Tomb Raider games can’t quite capture.

Each of the three games have their own identity and make incremental yet welcome improvements over their predecessor. Tomb Raider is perhaps the most authentic of the lot in regards to its namesake, with our pretty pilferer navigating actual tombs and overcoming increasingly complex puzzles, which are woven seamlessly into the overall tapestry of each stage.

Tomb Raider II ups the action by having Lara battle against more human foes and expanding her arsenal to include an M-16 and Grenade Launcher among others, with more exotic locations on the table including Venice, a sunken ship, the a gorgeous Tibetan monastery, and otherwordly floating islands.

By Tomb Raider III, our treasure hunter has the choice of selecting where to visit after the initial India stages, including London, Nevada, and the South Pacific Islands.

As such, there’s a Tomb Raider for everyone’s tastes. Fancy regular, actual tomb raiding? Go for the first game. Want to explore more urban locations with heavy emphasis on gunning down foes? TRII is your best mate.

Fancy a bit of both with some of the toughest puzzles in the series? Plump for TR3, although be prepared for some frustrating moments!

The shift in locations across all three games keeps things fresh and varied, and also results in unique conundrums to conquer. From solving ancient mechanics in Egypt, manipulating engine pistons on a sunken wreck, to navigating the complexities of a highly-advanced security system in Area 51, puzzles are intriguing and more importantly hugely satisfying to solve.

While earlier brain-teasers are pretty straight forward, requiring a specific key or item to hunt down or flip a switch to open a door, the games do a great job of slowly upping the difficulty as you progress.

Soon enough, you’ll be solving intricate riddles that require pinpoint platforming, backtracking, and timed door runs and more to conquer stages. Stages become a multi-layered web of head-scratchers and increasingly complex environmental navigation, and it’s a testament to the brilliance of the level design just how fun it is to overcome these challenges later on.

Levels also house secrets that are worth hunting down for the extra ammo and health packs (in Tomb Raider II you grab coloured dragon statues, the final one rewarding you with a supply cache).

Again, some are pretty obvious, but many of these hidden goodies are so well hidden that you really need to explore every nook and cranny to find them. They’re not mandatory, but it’s so rewarding to nab them all the same and a couple of them are hidden behind some well-designed puzzles for you to solve.

Platforming meanwhile is a methodical, precise commitment that requires you to really scan the environment before making a leap. Lining up a jump, hopping back, and leaping with X held to grab a distant ledge feels just as rewarding as it did back in the late 90s.

Admittedly, it can sometimes be a bit difficult to know where to go at times. Many of these issues are inherent to the old-school design, and sometimes key items or climbable points are obfuscated by poor textures.

Other times the camera completely fails and you lose track of where you are, sometimes falling to your death or running into a wall. While annoying, these niggles won’t impact your overall enjoyment and are just a hiccup.

There’s also some nasty difficulty spikes here and there, with Tomb Raider III being the biggest offender; even the first few stages are unusually tricky. However, trial and error will win out; just remember to save frequently to avoid slipping up badly.

Combat Remains Decent, But The Locations Are Real Star Of The Show

Of course, it wouldn’t be Tomb Raider without capping indigenous wildlife and gun-toting goons, so you’ll need to unholster your guns quite a bit. Lara’s acrobatics are put to good use here as you leap and dodge wolves, bats, lions, tigers, giant spiders, velociraptors, lizards etc, while armed baddies include lower-level grunts to armed-to-the-teeth military goons.

Combat is enjoyable enough but can feel unintuitive and stiff at times, but that’s perfectly okay; Tomb Raider’s strengths are in its environmental obstacles, after all.

Still, it’s always fun to bust out your Uzis, Shotgun or Desert Eagle, and each game has a handful of unique weapons making encounters a little more fresh. There is some basic ammo/health management to be had (particularly in Tomb Raider III), although if you get most pickups and secrets you’ll probably be swimming in supplies.

Bosses are always the best of the bunch, and it never gets old dispatching the likes of massive dinosaurs, giant bird-men, or cackling cosmetic CEOs wielding projectile-lobbing staffs.

Tomb Raider aficionados are definitely going to want to dip into the expansions, which excel at challenging puzzles and traversal. Tomb Raider: Unfinished Business is now presented in the order that its creator intended, and while it’s a slightly unambitious retreat of Egypt and Atlantis, it’s still a worthwhile time sink.

The Gold Mask for TRII meanwhile takes place in brand new settings ripe with some of the most aesthetically pleasing level design in the original trilogy, and really embraces the series’ more outlandish elements.

Tomb Raider III’s The Lost Artifact meanwhile dabbles in creepier settings ripe with atmosphere, such as a crumbling castle on the shores of Loch Ness (can you spot Nessie?) and eerie underground caverns punctuated by grisly fish mutant encounters.

Aspyr Media has done a brilliant job with Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft. If you’re a veteran, you now get all three games with expansions with a host of great extras. If you’re never played these games before or have only dabbled, this is the best time to jump in.

Yes, they’re old and have a few noticeable flaws, but stick with them and you’ll discover why the classic Tomb Raider games are so revered among fans. Oh, and don’t forget to let Winston out of the freezer!

Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft is due out on PS5, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X/S, and Xbox One on February 14, 2024.

Review code kindly provided by publisher.

Score

9

The Final Word

Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft is a superb collection of some of the PSOne's best adventure games. Whether you're a newcomer or veteran fan, the games remain hugely enjoyable and challenging, and the extra improvements really shine, particularly if you're new to the series and are intimidated by the old-school mechanics. Dive in and discover Lara Croft at her very best.